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Archive for April, 2018

Update

April 19th, 2018 at 11:14 am

I returned to Sam's this morning and exchanged the soup base. I also bought two big bottles of body wash for $10.

I can see that there is going to be a bump in expenditure as I start buying bulk. It should even out as the need to replace items becomes less and less frequent.

Variables are now at 62%, with six days to go, so I am still doing well.

I've found places for all the bulk items I've bought so far. My last chore for today is to strip the chicken carcass, freeze the meat, and make broth. Actually, that might be a tomorrow thing, since I need to pick up the boys in about an hour.

Back to Sam's

April 18th, 2018 at 03:56 pm

After going to the gym this morning, I returned to Sam's to do the shopping I intended to do yesterday.

I had $16 left on my gift card, and I spent $56 above that.

I bought two jars of soup base. I meant to buy one chicken, one beef, but I ended with two beef. So I have to go back tomorrow and exchange one.

My other purchases were a big bag of frozen vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower & carrots), 12 lbs. of flour, 2 lbs. of yeast, 45 rolls of toilet paper, two packages of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and 80 pods of Cascade. Whew! Feels so costly. Although I know the unit prices were good. I'm just not used to buying so much of anything.

I had to get two packages of yeast because they were bound together. I understand I can freeze yeast, so one will go in the freezer. And apparently, I can use it straight from the freezer, so maybe both should go in there? I shouldn't have to buy yeast for a long, long time. Though I do intend to keep up on my bread-baking, and maybe even get into rolls.

I watched "The Zookeeper's Wife" on free HBO today. Yesterday I watched "The Book of Henry" and "A United Kingdom." Apparently, the watchathon will go on the whole week, so I'm going to keep looking for movies I wanted to see but missed.

I picked up the boys today, but didn't spend anything. I picked up GS2 first, and we entertained ourselves by looking at the pets at PetSmart until GS2 was done with orchestra. Then I took them both home. Any time I can get them past McDonalds and Steak N Shake without spending anything is a win!

Sam's Treasure Hunt

April 17th, 2018 at 09:50 am

So I went back to Sam's today to shop for the first time. I only needed a few items. But I ended up not getting them, because I had the new member treasure hunt to do, and I could see that was all I could handle right then.

For $4 (which I put on the gift card, so, really, free) I got a rotisserie chicken, 2 lbs of strawberries, two French bread baguettes, a large slice of pizza, a large fountain drink, and a sundae.

I had the pizza and drink for lunch. The sundae is in the freezer. The chicken and strawberries are in the fridge. Later on, I'll cut up the baguettes and freeze them for sandwiches and garlic bread.

This changes my meal plans, and thus my "needs" for the next few days. But I'm really delighted.

Yesterday my only spending was $1.50 for laundry.

I noticed last night that Xfinity was having a watch-a-thon, so I watched two HBO movies, "The Wilde Wedding" and "My Cousin Rachel." Not sure how long it will last, but I'll scope it out more today.

Got $11 in cash back rewards from Discover. And this morning I found a quarter in the dirt! At least, I think it's a quarter. I'll have to clean it up to make sure.

I'm planning to spend the rest of the day reading and watching movies. What a life, huh? My DIL is working shorter hours this week, so I don't have to chauffeur the boys, at least not till Thursday. I love to see them, but it does cut up the day. I love having a uninterrupted day for just goofing around.

Snow on the Ground

April 16th, 2018 at 05:47 am

Ugh. I'm so sick of this.

I didn't go to the gym yesterday, because I decided that one of the special pleasures of retirement is not having to go out if you don't want to. The catch phrase on the news yesterday was"icy grip." Today it is "spring snow."

But I will go out to the gym today. I'll probably have to bus the kids later, anyway, so I might as well go out and get the car brushed off.

I bought a swimsuit yesterday! I got it online from Swimsuits for All; they were having a one-day sale, so I got one for $40. I hope it will fit. I actually ordered a size larger because it always seems like swimsuits are too tight and skimpy.

I already have a decent swimsuit, but I think I will need two this summer. DIL has purchased both a beach pass and a pool pass for my summer care of the boys. I think we will be swimming a lot. And I can't stand to put on a damp suit!

I sprang for the suit because my variables are going well this month. Even with this purchase I am at 49%, and there are only nine days left till payday.

I finished watching Stranger Things on Netflix, and yesterday I started both The Crown and A Series of Unfortunate Events. My BFF has encouraged me to watch Frankie and Grace, too. And my son has encouraged me for a long time to watch Orange is the New Black. My free trial is going to be over soon, but I can see that it will be worth it to subscribe.

Oh, I forgot to say -- I ordered my OTC meds from OTC-Essentials yesterday. I get $50 worth of free supplies four times a year. This time I ordered Tylenol, Zyrtec, baby aspirin, aloe cleansing wipes, Dairy Aid, and a toothbrush. All generic, though. This program (through my Medicare supplement) is a great boost to my budget.

Sam's

April 15th, 2018 at 06:22 am

Yesterday I spent $45 on my Sam's membership. I received a $20 gift card. I cruised through the store, mainly to see what was available, and did not buy anything. I was disappointed to see that the store does not carry my brand of cat litter, nor a grain-free dry cat food. But I think I will find enough other things to make it worthwhile.

I did briefly look at the wine offerings. They had quite a few "highly-rated" brands priced between $10 and $20, probably much better wine than I drink, but I don't perceive the difference, so I'll stick with my cheap brands, which I can get for around $5. I stopped at Walgreen's on my way home and bought a bottle.

I made cheese sauce with the thawed milk yesterday. I forgot that I had no flour to use as a thickening agent, so I substituted corn starch. I learned something! It made much better, smoother cheese sauce than usual. I made two servings of mac & cheese. I still have quite a bit of sauce left over, so I'm going to season it to make Welsh rarebit today.

Very ugly weather this morning and I'm on the fence about whether to go to the gym. I don't want to skip too much and make it a habit. But I don't like hearing news reports that winter has "an icy grip" on Chicago.

I hear that gas prices are going to jump (or have), so I'm glad I have the Sam's option now. I'll also be glad to have it when I take my road trip with BFF in a couple of weeks. I do hope the weather warms up a bit before we do that!

Success!

April 14th, 2018 at 05:31 am

I found a mystery shop assignment willing to pay for an oil change on a Toyota. The main page referenced "domestic vehicles" only, but after drilling down a little I found that the Toyota was acceptable.

I have already had it done. It took a long time -- a little more than two hours -- but it was a clean and comfortable place, and I had a book. And it wasn't too far away.

The cost was a little more than the reimbursement will be, but my $5 fee will cover the overage.

And I have to report that I tried popcorn in a paper bag in the microwave, and it worked great! I can't remember why I stopped doing it that way, but it was probably because I was leaving it in too long and burning it. So, thank you, Another Reader!

Because my oil change took so long, I was hungry and very tempted to go through a drive-through on the way home. But I resisted. It helped that I really had to go to the bathroom, and didn't want to prolong the agony!

So it was a no-spend day, other than the cost of another load of laundry.

Today -- when I venture out in this blustery weather -- I will go to Sam's and sign up for the membership.

Slept In!

April 13th, 2018 at 08:10 am

I had a rocky night, but slept in this morning. It felt weird.

I'm going to skip the gym, since I really prefer to go early in the morning. I don't have grandma duty today, so I have the whole day to tackle some projects. My place needs a good cleaning, for one.

I signed up for two more mystery shop companies yesterday, but still have had no luck finding an oil change offer for a Toyota. I do have a $10 coupon for a local gas station, so I might just get it done there. I'll also look around to see if JiffyLube or Midas is having any deals. It really is time to get this done.

I also got a ValuPak offer to get a $20 gift card for signing for Sam's $45 membership. I think I will do that. I was considering a Sam's membership, anyway. Surely savings on gas and pet supplies alone will make it worthwhile. As I recall, household supplies and medications are good deals, too.

No spending yesterday. It was warm and lovely, and my grandsons played outside -- but unfortunately, the younger one fell on his face and bloodied his mouth. He was terrified that his braces were broken, but they were okay, and the bleeding stopped pretty quickly. I took him (and his brother of course) home for some healing sherbet. Smile And I called his mom, of course, but she didn't think any further intervention was needed.

I thawed some milk to make cream soup the other day (which I didn't do) and I noticed this morning that it's still sitting there in the fridge. So I think I'll make some mac & cheese. Though I think I COULD refreeze milk. Not sure on that one.

My lovely new pans are both looking used already. I burned popcorn in one and rice in the other. I guess I need to relearn how to cook in stainless steel with no protective inner coating. And I think I'm done with regular popcorn. It doesn't pop any more. Does all the fresh popcorn get packaged as microwave popcorn, and the old stuff get put into bags? Anyway, I'm done, I'm not trying it again. If I burn microwave popcorn, at least I can just throw the bag away.

Extra Income

April 12th, 2018 at 05:10 am

I received a payment from one of my mystery shop companies. It was broken down between reimbursements and fees, but not by date or shopping event. So I still don't know if my first shop was ever counted. I should probably start keeping a spreadsheet of my shops, though the last thing I need is another spreadsheet to maintain. Anyway, the total was $44, of which $24 was reimbursements.

I also got $11 cash back from Discover, which I am transferring to my checking account.

I decided not to make chicken fajitas and concentrated instead on using up my food in a way that does not require buying more. I made chicken sandwiches for lunch. Today I'll cut up and cook the green pepper, and I'll use that for chicken & peppers over rice, and for an omelet.

I know eventually I'll have to go to the grocery store, but I figure the longer I can put it off, the better.

My only spending yesterday was $1.50 for laundry.

Mild weather has finally come. It will get up to the 70's today! The temperature will drop tonight, but at least we will have those few hours of spring!

Kitchen Stuff

April 11th, 2018 at 05:35 am

Yesterday I cut up and blanched the celery but decided not to make cream of celery soup. Instead I flash-froze the celery on a cookie sheet and then put the pieces in a freezer bag. I'll use them for soups, stews and casseroles.

My dinner was, instead, the last serving of beans and rice which I had forgotten about.

I realized that I had placed a bag of frozen chicken in the fridge instead of the freezer. The chicken was thawed; still good -- thank goodness! There were only three pieces left and I sauteed them. Since I have a pepper on hand, I'll probably prepare some chicken fajita filling. But I'll have to buy tortillas, salsa and sour cream. And I should probably get an onion, too.

I spent $28 on gas yesterday. Variables are up to 36%.

I noticed on one of my mystery shopping sites that one of my completed shops was not recorded on either the assigned/pending payment list or on the payment list. It is just not there, and I don't know what happened. I don't think they let me know that my report was deficient in any way. I used their "contact us" link to ask about it but I haven't had a reply.

I have been assigned to another shop on the 27th. Casual hamburger place, again.

No luck in finding a free oil change, so I guess I just have to go ahead and get one!

Checking Imbalance

April 10th, 2018 at 06:16 am

This morning I noticed that my check register and my bank statement did not match. It took me a while, but I figured out that I did not record an electricity payment in my check register. Glad I caught it before it caused trouble!

Yesterday was another no-spend day.

Today it's Bagel Day at Planet Fitness. It seems weird to be seeking out another bagel, but, hey it's another free bagel. Another free breakfast.

I'm going to make a tomato casserole for lunch, and then I'll make cream of celery soup for dinner. My big chore for the day is cleaning the fish tank.

My big expenditure for the day will be getting gas.

Still waiting for warm weather! Where is it????

No-Spend Day

April 9th, 2018 at 07:46 am

Yesterday was a no-spend day. I got my last bagel, picked up a freebie at Jewel (a package of hot & spicy ramen), and went to the gym in the morning.

I have three bagels in the freezer that I did not eat and which I will save for future breakfasts. I did manage to pick up a bagel every day but one during the two-week promotion.

Around 2 pm I started making bread. It wasn't until 9 pm that I was all done with the process. The yeast was very slow to rise. However, the loaves did turn out fine. I used up every bit of flour and yeast I had, so there will be no more breadmaking for a while. (Note: I make bread the old-fashioned way, no bread machine, and I knead by hand. Very therapeutic.)

I woke up to snow on the ground this morning! "A winter's da-a-ay, in a deep and dark ... April" -- to paraphrase Simon & Garfunkel. I had had a bad night's sleep -- and Iggy does not let me sleep in -- so I decided, all things considered, I would take a day off from the gym and just stay home this morning.

That said, I am really hooked on the gym now. I can feel the difference in my core muscles and my carriage. It hasn't resulted in any weight loss, but I feel it is doing much good for my general health.

I had a frugal breakfast this morning -- I used up the last of the pancake batter I made on Saturday, and I made home fries from the leftover fries I brought home from Five Guys.

I'm planning on making a tomato-bacon sandwich for lunch (I have no lettuce!) and for dinner I will heat up leftover stir-fry which I made yesterday out of all my bits and scraps of vegetables in the fridge.

I will pick up the boys after school today, so I will have to go out eventually!

Grocery Mystery Shop

April 8th, 2018 at 06:18 am

I completed the grocery store mystery shop yesterday without much trouble. I was required to spend at least $9 (which will be reimbursed) and I spent $27. I wasn't trying to stay close to $9, just picked up things I needed. I bought frozen pizza, coffee, wine, sherbet, eggs, English muffins, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, peppers, tomato, and paper towels.

I then went to Jewel to get the MyMixx freebies. I couldn't find one (I'll try again today at a different store) but I did get a yogurt smoothie and a 12-oz. bottle of chocolate milk. And I bought some chow mein noodles for $1.37, which I hadn't been able to find at Food4Less.

I am hoping that this will pretty much complete my grocery shopping for the rest of the month. I figure I have these meals in the mix:

Pizza
Spaghetti
Bacon-Tomato Sandwich
Chicken Stir Fry
Omelet
Egg Salad Sandwich
Pancakes
Cream of Celery Soup
Beans & Rice
Chicken Casserole

I also have some leftovers in the freezer.

Today I'll go get my last bagel.

I have lots of chores to do. Good day to do them, as it continues to be wintry cold outside.

Second-Last Bagel

April 7th, 2018 at 07:57 am

I had the second-last bagel this morning -- at least I think so. The deal expires on April 8 -- I'm not sure if that means I get a bagel tomorrow or not. I'll find out.

This time I ate in at the downtown location; had my everything bagel split, toasted and buttered. I read a Wall Street Journal someone else left behind. It was a nice morning.

I also got free parking because I was under the two-hour limit. However, the elevator was out of order in the parking garage, so I did have to do a lot of stairs. Luckily my knee is not in a bad stage right now.

I'm doing a mystery shop at a grocery store today and I'm all prepped for it. I'll be glad to get that out of the way. It is very close to Planet Fitness, so I'll get my workout done on the same trip.

Getting to where I need to fill the tank again, but not today.

Variables are at 30%. Eighteen days to go.

Mystery Shop Redux

April 6th, 2018 at 06:33 am

I had to go back to Bakers Square last night and try a different entree. When I went with my son, we got the same entree and we were supposed to get different ones. The agent got in touch with me and asked me to do this, and she would then update and approve my survey. I don't know if I'll get reimbursed for the extra expense, but if not, it's better than not getting reimbursed at all. I did have to upload my receipt, but it may have been just to verify my visit.

Anyway, I went with the boys since I was committed to taking them to music lessons. I ordered a BLT and they each got a piece of pie. So that was $10 more out of pocket and an additional $9 that may or may not be reimbursed. I guess that will teach me to read more carefully. The upside is that the boys loved the special treat!

I also got a call from a different mystery shop company asking me to repeat a visit to Five Guys today. (Not because anything was wrong with my previous visit. They just need another one.) So I'll do that around noon. This one is good because I get a free lunch and a cash payment.

And tomorrow I'll be doing a shop at Food4Less, which will offer a small cash payment and $9 worth of groceries. I have to reread the instructions; they sound pretty complicated!

This stuff, as well as the babysitting, is keeping me busy!

Free Food Galore

April 5th, 2018 at 05:29 am

My mystery shop at the restaurant went well last night. We did rack up a bill that was $5 more than my reimbursement will be, but $5 was pretty cheap for two good dinners with dessert.

I forgot to stop and get a bagel at Panera! Oh well, I will do that today on the way to take the boys to music lessons. Counting today, I think I am entitled to four more bagels.

This weekend -- it appears I can choose either Saturday or Sunday -- I can buy $9 worth of groceries at Food4Less on a mystery shop.

It's time for an oil change, so I'm going to start looking for a place I can get that done free. I have found some oil change mystery shops, but I don't have the right make of car. I'll keep looking.

Variables are now at 28%; twenty days till pay day.

Snow!

April 4th, 2018 at 06:59 am

Woke up to snow on the ground this morning, so I decided not to go to the gym today, and I won't even go get a bagel for breakfast. I do have to go out this evening for my restaurant mystery shop, so I'll stop at Panera on the way and get a bagel to put in the freezer.

I made myself a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs, sauteed apples and a biscuit. I'll have a salad for lunch, and then I'll have my free dinner at the restaurant tonight.

My only spending yesterday was $1.50 for a load of laundry. I picked up the boys after school, but they played basketball in the gym until their mom was home from work, so there was no discussion about getting a snack.

I have to say I'm really tired of this winter weather in spring. Bleeehhh!

New Mystery Shop

April 3rd, 2018 at 06:53 am

I've been approved for a mystery shop at a grocery store -- the same company where I messed up -- so I guess I will not be punished for my mistake. This shop will take place this weekend.

I went to Panera yesterday morning for my bagel breakfast. There are three Panera's in my area, so I sort of rotate among them, so I'm not begging for my bread to the same person every day. Yesterday I had them split, toast and butter the bagel and it did not cost extra. And it was delicious.

Then I went to the gym, and then to Aldi, where I spent $13 on cream cheese, creamer, butter, crackers and garlic.

And then I went to library, where I checked out an armful of books. And I also paid a $1.35 library fine.

In the afternoon, I picked up the boys and took them to Steak N Shake for shakes - $3.

Variables are at 25%.

I've been doing well at finding change this month -- so far .11, mostly pennies. I guess pennies on the ground are a sign of spring!

Speaking of found money, I picked up a kid's abandoned jacket at school yesterday and put it where they generally pile up the lost things. I felt a crackle in the pocket and there were some bills wrinkled up in there. I left them there, of course, but now I wonder if someone else will take them, and if I should have taken them for safe keeping. But how would I ever know whose jacket it is? I suppose I could have taken the jacket to the office, but I didn't think of it then. Ah well, maybe he'll get it back with money intact, I hope, and if not, maybe he will have learned a lesson.

Easter Meal

April 2nd, 2018 at 06:18 am

I had a happy Easter Day with my kids. We went out for Mexican food, an old family tradition. It began as a ploy to avoid the Easter brunch crowds, and it stuck. My kids paid for my meal, and I also took home a lot of rice and beans that no one ate.

I stopped at Walgreen's and bought a bottle of Beano, so those beans won't bother me! It was $14. That seems like a lot just to digest some free beans, but there are 100 pills in the bottle and it should last some time.

In the afternoon, we all played a game that I think was called Escape -- it was a riddle game that you can play one time only (because once you know the riddles, the game is done!) I think they said they paid $15 for it, and then it was thrown away! They said it was pretty cheap for two hours of entertainment for five people, and I didn't argue.

The kids had a great time in Williamsburg -- even the grandsons. They especially liked touring Yorktown and Jamestown. They came back with pictures and a lot of excited chatter. It made me long to go back again (I used to live there.) Maybe next year.

I watched Jesus Christ Superstar last night and then went to bed -- but couldn't sleep until well after midnight. I feel pretty rough today, and I will have to be "on" for after-school care today.

My son is going to come with me for the mystery shop restaurant meal on Wednesday.

Speaking of mystery shopping, it looks like I mistakenly requested an assignment and then did not carry it out. I was not aware of it until I saw it on my account as "completed." I don't remember ever asking for it and I can only assume that I somehow did it by mistake when I was trying to figure out the site and was looking at the available shops. I hope that doesn't put a black mark on my record, but it probably does. I have put in another request for the same shop, different date, but it hasn't been approved and it's been several days.

Happy Easter!

April 1st, 2018 at 06:22 am

My kids came back last night. I haven't seen them yet. But I'm off cat duty. Whoopee!

Yesterday, after going to the gym, I went to Panera and got my free bagel, then to Jewel, where I bought detergent ($11) and got three free items worth $4. One of them was a half-gallon of non-GMO milk. I'm lactose intolerant, but I do use milk in cooking (and I take a dairy pill when I eat the results). I'm going to freeze the milk in small portions today.

Then I went to Aldi, where I spent $8 on cheese puffs, biscuits, graham crackers, almond milk and celery.

I had some leftover chicken to use up so I made chicken & dumplings, with carrot, celery and red onion. Still have two more servings.

I have run out of books to read, so I have to go to the library today (if it's open!) I see on my account that I have a small fine to pay. The grandsons returned something late. They do check out materials on my card when I'm watching them, and I'm usually on top of return dates. But I think this happened when I was traveling. No big deal, it's less than $2, and the important thing is, the books have been returned.

Possibly going out for lunch today, but I don't know if the kids are going to be up for it. I don't know quite how late they got home. If we don't, that's fine, it will save me a little $$$.